Finding ways to connect with your tween when puberty emotions are running high and your fuse is running low makes it easy to get off track with the relationship we want to have with them.
No one wants conflict and it seems like everything you say causes one.
The eye rolls🙄 and the attitude starts and it just seems easier to keep quiet.
You put it off to let things cool down and it can get hard to pick up the ball again.
Wait one more day, and pretty soon a week has gone by.
In the days of silence or at least tolerance of each other, we don’t want to rock the boat again.
We long for the days when they used to tell us everything that happened in their day, every mind-numbing story droning on about Minecraft or Fortnite
But soon the silence is deafening, they are staring at their tablets or phones.
Whispering and sharing memes with their friends we don’t even understand and we are left out.
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And while you marvel at the person they are becoming, it’s a bittersweet reminder that your tween is growing up.
We thought that the infant age of no sleep and the toddler years of no breaks was difficult and they so desperately needed you that they followed you to the bathroom and into your bed for what felt like an eternity of countless needs.
But these tween years and the teen ones to come are by far the hardest.
They pretend not to need you to help them with your wisdom of fashion and advice.
Yet they need you so much more than they realize than even you realize.
This world of swirling emotions and topsy-turvy friendships.
Of navigating mean girls and just as scary, nice boys.
They barely wave to you as they rush to the bus and are dropped off at the birthday parties.
They used to be thrilled to see you when the school day was over and now they are embarrassed if you park too close to the school.
Heaven forbid, come inside to pick them up from the dance.
The days of your phone filled with 400 photos of close-ups of the inside of their mouth are now selfies of faces practicing glamour shots of artfully applied eyeshadow and mascara that rival any smokey eye that you could even imagine let alone execute at 47 nevermind 12.
And the attitude, oh the attitude that you are sure would have gotten you killed or at the very least grounded by your mother maybe even still now, is flying from her mouth and you are dumbfounded.
What happened to my teeny tiny sweet little girl?
Well, she’s still teeny, but oh my god.
And let’s not forget, there are three kids here.
I spend more and more time thinking about how will I ever make it through the next 6 years!
But I can’t drop that ball.
See these for more on curbing tween attitude and surviving tween dances.
So how do you connect with your tween again?
#1 Find some common ground with your tween.
Find something, anything that you can enjoy together.
Maybe it’s sharing funny videos or a tv show.
I seriously watched all the Miranda Sings, Haters Back Off shows with my daughter.
Is it something I would have watched on my own? Uh no.
But you never know.
We laughed together and she got to see I was willing to let her choose.
We recently finished binge-watching Pretty Little Liars.
I honestly didn’t think I would like it since it was for teens.
And I was surprised to find I loved it. It was something just for the two of us.
With my oldest son, it was The Walking Dead that became “our thing.”
Maybe it’s music, our friend has taken his daughter to see Red Hot Chili Peppers and PRIMUS.
I honestly don’t even know who PRIMUS is, LOL.
But it’s their shared love of music that brings them closer.
Perhaps it’s reading. You’d be surprised how many tweens and teens still like to be read to.
Think about something you used to do as a hobby or for fun.
Maybe you stopped doing it when life got too busy.
Pick it up again and include your teen.
I bet you played video games or shot pool. Maybe it was karaoke or played volleyball.
Whatever it was, you probably had fun and your kid might like it too.
Pull out old pictures of family vacations gone wrong, home movies, or your yearbook.
Show them what you looked like at your prom or your first car.
Remind them you were young once too, that you were experiencing the same things they are now.
What if you found a cause that means something to both of you?
Fundraising or volunteering at your local animal shelter or training together for a 5K that raises money for charity.
With their tastes changing it may take a few tries to find something that you both can enjoy.
Be glad it’s no longer Caillou.
#2 One on One Date with your tween
That new common ground or interest you’ve always shared can turn into great 1-1 dates.
Take a cooking class together. Many community colleges or vocational schools offer adult/child classes.
Learn a new skill like baking from scratch, learning sign language, or how to work on cars.
Maybe it’s mani-pedi’s, roller-skating or running.
Make a weekly movie date or have a standing breakfast date once a month.
Just make it yours and theirs alone.
I find this especially important if you have more than one kid.
My youngest son, who is 10, tells me he still misses our “Mommy Mondays”.
That’s what we called it when he still had Mondays off from preschool and the others were in school every day.
If you’re really struggling to carve out time with them due to finances or schedules…making them your assistant in the kitchen for a night or a whole week and rotating for each kid is a great bonding experience as well as a way to introduce or up their cooking skills.
Who knows you might have a budding chef or at the very least have kids who can take on a night of cooking to help you out.
Our 10-year-old has become quite good and is more than willing to take over my least favorite chore… “what’s for dinner?”
#3 Journaling with your tween
Diaries are great since everyone has a right to their own private thoughts. But a shared journal can offer a whole new way to communicate.
This can open up conversations both of you may be struggling with. New and challenging changes to their world can be confusing and scary. But they can also be embarrassing to bring up. And not just for them.
And it’s so easy to start.
All you need is a notebook, a pen, and an open mind.
Jump in. Be first.
Write them a little note and leave it where they’re sure to find it, like on their pillow.
Think back to the days when you were a pen pal with your best friend and sign it with “write back“. Have fun!
It may take a bit of encouragement.
You might get some eye-rolling,🙄 but give it a try.
You never know what they’ll tell you.
If this seems intimidating, try one of these that has some built-in prompts already.
Or fill in some uplifting quotes of encouragement like these.
Meet them where they are…maybe it means a bit more texting than you’d like…but sometimes sending my kids a funny meme or a quick “hi”…even from across the room, makes them smile.
Or maybe it’s a note tucked in their bag or coat pocket to let them know they’re on your mind and in your heart, especially when you’ve had an argument.
You can get these printable notes below by clicking on the image.
This is what it really all boils down to.
Keep those lines of communication open.
You might not see it today or even tomorrow, but when they feel safe and you least expect it, they’ll be looking for you when they need that advice on mean girls, or cute boys or 😱 maybe even makeup.
Have you grabbed the Free Bullet Journal Worksheets designed to help get a handle on the moody tweens and teenagers in your house? It may even help you!
If you’re already a subscriber, these are in the exclusive member-only Vault. Not a subscriber? Click on the image.
I’d like to hear what works for you to keep that connection with your tween or teen? Comment below!
Sunday 25th of April 2021
Thank you for this. I'm definitely struggling with ny 10 y.o who has started her period and we moved from the town where she was happy to a town she hates 1.5 years later (pandemic doesn't help) I feel extreme guilt that we moved and get discouraged and shut down. I will try these things
Monday 26th of April 2021
Wow, that's really hard for both of you. I hope the ideas help. Guilt is such a tough one for all moms. Take care of yourself too. Thanks for commenting.
Friday 30th of August 2019
My son is 11 years old and lately I have been feeling all the anxiety and disconnection you mentioned. When I ask questions about his “little girl friend” he is very short with me. I guess I’m pushing him away with my questions about her. I only ask simple questions to simply learn about her. I see where I’m messing up now. Thank you for your article.
Saturday 31st of August 2019
Hi Amanda, First off, never think you're messing up. It' always our first thought isn't it...*sigh. Just the fact that you want it to be better and are reading articles to find out what can help is doing way more than many parents do. None of us know how to do any of this. Even if we have other kids, they are all different. Every stage has challenges more difficult than the last it seems. Connecting with them can be hard. I struggle with this too. I want to know all the things and I'm chatty so I get where you are. I try to remember myself at that age and the funny thing is I wanted that closeness with my parents but felt awkward about the conversations. My parents didn't ask a whole lot just basics about them, but I envied the girls whose moms had all the questions like "did he kiss you?". It makes no sense, but so much about growing up and life, in general, doesn't, am I right. So far I have found that just spending time with them they tend to open up more. And maybe not. But knowing that you are there and open to the conversations will make them more willing if they decide to. It's also very new for him, he's trying to figure so much out too. Sometimes it's a change in wording or timing. In the dark seems to be a good one at this age. Judgy faces are hidden and they seem less vulnerable for some reason. And sometimes we have to learn to live on the breadcrumbs they give us. :)
Monday 11th of February 2019
I’m having a very hard time with my 10 years old son. He’s so rebellious and has a bad attitude. We are fighting all the time. I wish for a different relationship with my son. I wish to enjoy our time together, to have a strong bond, yet a respectable relation and set boundaries.
Wednesday 13th of February 2019
Hi Maha, I'm so sorry you're having such a hard time with your son. I find this to be such a hard age too. It's great you want things to get better. Searching for ideas already puts you ahead of the game. Every kid is different so don't be discouraged if it takes time to find something that works for you and your son. Sometimes when our kids won't talk to us, other adults in their lives can point us in the right direction as to what might be going on. Have you tried the notebook idea? It's often easier for them to write down what they are too afraid to say out loud. Even if it's something simple like they had a fight with a friend. We've also used "what was your most favorite part of the day?" and "What was your least favorite part of the day?" at dinner time. We each take turns going around and it gives everyone an opportunity to say as little or as much as they'd like. This often brought up stories we might never have heard. You could also check out this post on tween attitude and see if any of these areas are adding fuel to the fire. Take care and thanks for commenting.
Sunday 8th of July 2018
You summed up the heartbreak parents of teens and tweens feel. The anxiety and fears are all so well depicted. However, you elevated the post from another whinge fest with your practical action steps to bridge the gap between parents and kids. Thank you for this post. The sincere tone and desire to help parents experiencing this trauma is obvious.
Thursday 19th of July 2018
Hi Poorvanesh, You're so right tween years can be filled with anxiety and fears, but they don't have to be. Thanks for commenting, glad you came by.